THROUGH THE EYE OF THE NEEDLE: WHY TEACH TO MAKE BY HAND IN THE DIGITAL AGE?
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This study uses the experience of designing and teaching two contrasting sewing projects to explore the purpose of learning practical creative-technical skills in the digital age. By focusing on the activity and reflections generated by these projects in relation to established academic and professional descriptions of the making process, both inside and outside mainstream education, it has been possible to re-evaluate the purpose of a practical creative-technical curriculum as a vehicle for educating a diverse range of learners in the Digital Age. New digital technologies are changing the way in which people interact with each other and with their environment. This inevitably challenges the relevance of established agendas for learning the practical skills we traditionally use to facilitate these interactions. This field of education has been hotly debated for decades and has been subject to many reformulations of the curriculum, the most recent being the new 9-1 GCSE in Design and Technology in England. Yet in many educational establishments, the process of teaching practical creative-technical skills has seen little change over time. By comparing policy documents with records of the practical experiences of both teacher and learner in different educational contexts, I aimed to distil and define key characteristics of this subject area. In so doing, I hoped to distinguish this type of learning experience relevant to digital natives and to students of all ages who participate in these activities today and to invite further debate about the value of teaching to make by hand in the digital age.